Limited effects

LIMITED EFFECTS…. The bad news is, throughout the debate over an economic stimulus plan, Republican voices have been the most prominent. The good news is, the GOP’s talking points have been widely heard, but apparently haven’t been persuasive.

A new Gallup poll asked respondents about the government’s efforts to pass a stimulus package. President Obama enjoys strong support; a plurality approve of congressional Democrats, while 58% disapprove of the way in which congressional Republicans have handled the issue.

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The same poll found that they have more confidence now in the Obama administration’s ability to improve the economy than before the president took office, while a majority of poll respondents (including a majority of independents) believe it is “critically important” that policymakers pass a stimulus package. Gallup’s analysis of the results added, “President Obama would appear to have the upper hand in the current focus on Congress’ efforts to pass a major economic stimulus bill.”

Two quick thoughts on this. First, I’m a little surprised by these results. Not only have conservative Republicans been dominating the discourse, but the critics’ talking points have been largely internalized by journalists covering the debate. There’s at least some data suggesting Americans actually want less stimulus in the stimulus bill. It’s at least possible, then, that the Gallup results are an outlier. (It’s also possible that the numbers are connected to Obama’s personal popularity — Rasmussen doesn’t include the president’s name in its stimulus polling, while Gallup did.)

Second, Gallup noted “the degree to which Obama appears to be maintaining the upper hand over his opponents.” If only that were true. Given what we’ve seen of late, there’s no reason to believe Republicans’ conduct is in any way connected to the demands of voters. The president would have the upper hand if the minority party were swayed by public opinion, but at least for now, the GOP is more interested in standing on the party’s “core principles” than anything else.